Editorial: Priceless friendship uplifting

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 11:54 PM

The older gentleman in the wheelchair was very well known.

He needed help to stand and be recognized. That can happen at 89. But he came to give a friend a salute.

He also got a new experience. George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, had never seen a Duke basketball game in venerable, fun-filled Cameron Indoor Stadium. In fact, no current or former president had until Saturday.

The gesture was simple enough. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski became friends with Bush many years ago. And friends provide friends with positive experiences, whether it is visits, calls of support, sharing life together or providing a gift.

This might have been a little of it all.

Krzyzewski’s help in the fight against cancer is well chronicled. One of his best friends in the business, former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, was a victim. He’s been touched by it in other ways, too, most recently the Dec. 26 death of his older brother.

Still dealing with grief, Krzyzewski looked like a man who got a needed lift, if only for a short time. Bush set an example for all friendships on Saturday, and he set an example of leadership in 2001.

That’s when he had the idea that became the CEO Roundtable on Cancer. He got help in its launch and began to add CEOs of major companies. Bush’s vision has been turned into companies joining the fight against cancer through initiatives that help their employees. It led to his link with Krzyzewski.

Corporations become members by meeting goals for risk reduction, early detection and quality care. Risk reduction focuses on tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity. Early detection focuses on prevention and screening. And quality care focuses on access to the best treatment and clinical trials.

A culture of healthy lifestyles is encouraged. Companies provide support if cancer is diagnosed.

The Roundtable also has a consortium task force of leading oncology pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

When cancer becomes reality, a foundation for the help employees need is already in place.

It’s more than a lapel pin for Krzyzewski, an honorary member and chairman.

Bush’s visit was to salute the coach’s work toward eliminating cancer as a public health threat, to say thanks for helping out.

And really, that’s what friends do.